Archdiocese threatens to end services for needy
The gay Catholic group Dignity USA is urging the D.C. City Council to reject a demand by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington that it amend a pending same-sex marriage bill to allow its charitable arm to discriminate against gay employees.
Dignity weighed in on the brewing controversy over the city’s pending same-sex marriage bill after Catholic Charities, which is run by the Archdiocese, said it would discontinue operating dozens of city-funded programs that serve as many as 68,000 low-income people if the Council doesn’t make certain changes in the bill.
“It’s shameful of the church to put its dogmatic position above the needs of the needy people receiving these services,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Dignity USA’s executive director.
“I would encourage the City Council to say, fine, we’ll take our programs to another vendor,” Duddy-Burke said.
An official with the Archdiocese said the version of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Act of 2009 approved Nov. 10 by a City Council committee narrowed rather than broadened a religious exemption clause that the Archdiocese and other religious groups had been calling for.
The bill does not require religious organizations to perform same-sex marriages or make their facilities available for such marriages. But under existing laws, including the D.C. Human Rights Act, religious organizations like Catholic Charities would be barred from denying benefits to their employees’ same-sex married spouses.
Jane Belford, chancellor of the Archdiocese, said the current wording would force Catholic Charities to provide a health insurance benefits plan to its employees in which spousal benefits must be offered to the “same-sex married partner of a gay or lesbian employee.” Doing this would violate Catholic teachings and beliefs that marriage must be restricted to a man and a woman, she said.
She said the bill also would require Catholic Charities and other religious oriented social service providers to facilitate an adoption or foster care for a same-sex couple and would require a local religious community to “make its hall available for events inconsistent with the community’s sincere religious beliefs.”
In a letter to members of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, which voted 4-1 to approve the marriage bill, Belford said the Archdiocese could not continue to operate its social services programs under city contracts if the marriage bill doesn’t waive these non-discrimination requirements for Catholic Charities and other religious groups.
The current language in the bill, she said, “does not permit Catholic Charities and other religious service organizations to freely function as religious entities serving the needs of District residents.” Read complete article - By LOU CHIBBARO JR. – SOUTHERN VOICE